By Pam Harnden, Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — State Rep. Christina Riley, D-Jay, told students at the annual eighth-grade Career Fair at Mt. Blue Middle School on Tuesday that to succeed they need a plan.
She spoke from experience.
Growing up poor and having no money for schooling, Riley said she took entry-level jobs after high school and worked 70 hours a week to pay bills. She was a cook and later worked in a group home.
“The hours were long. It was a struggle,” she said. “The only way to get out of that rut was to make a plan.”
Riley learned about an apprenticeship program for aspiring electricians and signed up. Of the 16 students she was the only woman.
“I was told women drop out,” she said. “When I graduated five years later, there were eight people left. I learned I’m the most persistent person I know.”
She helped construct the last full-scale paper machine built in Maine and of the roughly 2,000 who worked that job, she was one of six women.
Riley later ran her own electrical business with her husband, worked in a mill and then stayed home to care for her disabled son.
She said former state Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, asked her four times to run for his seat in the Maine House of Representative. To learn the job, she went back to school.
“I had so much to learn,” Riley said.
She shared with students things she learned along the way:
-Have a plan. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Think about what makes you happy.”
-Make a commitment to keep learning.
-Take risks. “Failure is the step before trying again. Hang in there, even when you don’t seem to be getting it right.”
-Look for the lessons, gain experience. “Ask yourself what you want to avoid, then move on to the next thing.”
During a health careers panel discussion, Dr. Jay Naliboff said health care workers will always be needed.
“There are many options,” he said. “You won’t be outsourced, replaced by computers. I’d say the most important thing has to be the people. You really have to like working with people. You’re dealing with people in the best, the worst times in their lives. You help them get well. There’s no better job.”
Seth Noonkester, general manager of Titcomb Mountain Ski Area in Farmington, said the importance of outdoor career jobs is that they keep people active.
Photographer Stacey Damon of Wilton showed students how the use of reflectors changed pictures. She shared tips on posing and let students practice being models and taking pictures.
“There are lots of posing rules,” she said. “Once you know the rules, break them.”
Students and staff from Foster Career and Technical Education Center programs and local business and professional people told about their careers during 40-minute sessions.
Presenters discussed plumbing and metal fabrication, commercial arts and business education, automotives, creative arts, law enforcement, education, law and firefighting and emergency medical technicians.